» Lost and found

Lost and found

 

Time and again I end up having my most exciting adventures when I least expect it and this occasion was no different. During a quiet Saturday afternoon here in Siem Reap I decided to head out for a mid-afternoon drive on my motorbike to the countryside. I didn’t really have a plan as to where I would go, but this is never a problem: just pick a road, turn left or right and see where you end up… well, at least that is my motto.

I headed out of Siem Reap in a northerly direction. Having left the town behind, it wasn’t long before I was surrounded by the ever appealing rice fields. The rice now already standing above knee-high radiating the most luminous yellowish-green color that nature can provide, further enhanced be the rays of a late afternoon sun.

An idea struck me to go look for a temple in an area that I don’t know too well. I didn’t even know the name of the temple, but of course this makes the treasure-hunt all the more interesting!

After heading down a dirt road for a few miles I reached a small village and the fun and games began. In my broken Khmer I asked them if there is an ancient temple in the area and after the panel deliberated my question for a bit they unanimously decided that they understood my question, approved of my question and even more, they would offer up the secret of finding the missing temple. I was pointed in the direction of a single-track dirt road heading off into the unknown…

Now in most other countries of the world I would feel a little bit nervous about simply following some dirt road into the wilderness… however, in Cambodia I have never felt threatened: not by people nor by nature so I simply steered my dirty Suzuki down the narrow track.

The first part of the path was pretty decent with beautiful rice fields on either side, but it wasn’t long before I reached my first challenge: following the heavy rains there was a substantial pool of water right across the path and it was clear there was no way around it either: if I wanted to continue I would have to go through. The only problem being that it was rather hard to tell how deep the pool actually was or if it even was possible to continue on through it. Luckily at this moment two kids came cycling from up ahead. They reached the edge of the pond, jumped off their bicycles and started making their way through: it turned out the ‘dark lake’ wasn’t unsurpassable, but it wasn’t exactly ankle deep either. It would be a challenge to get the motorbike through, but I was more worried about the effect of getting the engine semi-submerged.  Of course I was way too excited by this stage to turn back so my aqua-mobile and I plunged in and pushed through!

Having survived the first challenge Mr Suzuki and I again had a clear path leading through more rice fields, but all the time it was quite evident that I was now in an area that does not exactly experience the same footfall as Waterloo station in London during rush hour on a Monday morning…

It was in this moment that some guy on a bicycle mysteriously appeared by the side of the road. In true Cambodian fashion he wore a big smile and with a small child on the back of his bicycle I summed him up as a friendly family man so I smiled back. I asked him if I was still on the right track and he confirmed that indeed I was and that I should follow him. In the meantime his wife also appeared and altogether we set off.

Low and behold we reached another pool of water, but this time I was not even going to stop and wonder about it: we were heading on! This one was longer than the first so I was a little bit relieved when we reached the end of the gauntlet and my bike was still purring like a Harley Davidson! I was kind of expecting it to come to a stuttering halt, but I think my Suzuki shares my sense of adventure and he was also not going to let a bit of water put a stop to our fun and games!

Wife and daughter trailing behind Wife and daughter trailing behind

Husband leading the way.. Husband leading the way..

So on we went…

We reached a third pool of water. This time we really faced the true test: I could see that to get through this one my motorbike and I were definitely going swimming! I looked at my recently acquired guide who just shrugged and said: ‘Ort panha’ – ‘No worries’. Yeah right! Next thing I know my poor Suzuki was more than halfway under water, holding his breath while I was doing my best to keep us upright! I am no expert, but I am pretty sure motorbikes are not meant to have their engines running underwater…  Anyway, too late now so I revved him up and we swam-ploughed our way through: we made it and my super reliable Suzuki was still alive and well!!!

We arrived at a smallish house in the middle of the rice fields and my guide explained that from here on we go on foot and so we did: on through the rice fields in the direction of what looked like a small jungle about 500m or so up ahead. Unfortunately we had not yet seen the last of the pools of water hazards obscuring the route. We soon had to make our way through waste deep water, this time my only concern being for my camera equipment, because if something caused me to keel over in that pool it would be a lot of damage in dollars!!

more water to go through more water to go through

Finally we reached the edge of the small jungle. It was now already around 5:30pm and the sun was beginning to slide down the horizon. My guide dived into the jungle on what may have been a path in 1,000AD… it certainly wasn’t a path anymore! Anyway, my life in the hands of a stranger I followed suit and headed into the dark unknown.

I was really expecting to see one of those bright red snakes that always feature in National Geographic documentaries about the amazon. Un-/fortunately none were about, nor were any other snakes for that matter. The only creatures I can positively identify as having been present were the mosquitoes: and they were there in droves! After about 5-10mins of beating away the undergrowth and fighting the first brigade of the Mosquito Armed Forces, the first hints of a temple ruin appeared: some carved stones now partly swallowed by the decaying leaf floor of the jungle. Then the ancient framed doorway of where a temple once stood also became visible and behind that the clear remains of a larger structure. We had discovered the missing temple!! Ok, so not really ‘discovered’, because this guy obviously knew all along that there is an ancient temple in his back garden, but to me it certainly felt like a discovery!

 

Lost temple-4 Lost temple-3

Lost temple-7 Lost temple-8

Unfortunately by this stage it was pretty dark and I just took a few photos to savor the moment before we headed back and out into the open: I still had a long way to go and the sun was now just dipping below the horizon. We made it back to Indiana Senior’s home. Luckily the cow and my motorbike were still where we had left them. I said my goodbyes, jumped on my bike and drove straight into the first of the three pools I had to navigate again if I were to reach home safely! This time I didn’t even consider the consequences of soaking my motorbike’s engine and I think my Suzuki also just held his breath and pushed on because we both wanted to get home!

Motorbike and cow where we had left them Motorbike and cow where we had left them

An hour or so later we reached home. I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed what proved to be yet another impromptu adventure in The Kingdom. I certainly plan to go back soon to spend more time at the temple ruin and hopefully also find that bright red snake to really get a photo worthy of the adventure!

 

I apologise, the pictures aren’t great. Please also note that I have enhanced the exposure of the photos, especially in the jungle area so that at least the readers (and I) can see what the temple would look like in better light conditions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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